This is a post I’ve wanted to write for a long time. Like many Pagans, I’ve had various altars and shrines throughout the years. Putting altars together is an act of devotion in itself, carefully picking each piece for its symbolic significance as well as its aesthetic qualities. Shrines beautify a home and give you a place to mediate on the Gods and to perform rituals. Crafting an altar is a meditation in itself. And like many Pagans, I enjoy looking at pictures of other people’s sacred places. It can be a wonderful learning experience to look at them, to get new ideas, and it can also make a solitary Pagan feel not so alone in the world.
So for all these reasons, I’ve been wanting to write something of a history of my shrines and altars. I have a lot of pictures from many of the places I have lived. These are not all the altars I have ever had, but many of them. These pictures also serve as a record for me, since many of these items are unfortunately lost to me. I’ve had a couple of bouts of homelessness, and when that happened I had to pare down my belongings and gave away many of my sacred items to other Pagans I knew since I couldn’t keep them all. These pictures are a record that those altars still existed, and in a way, this post becomes a cyber-temple, and even years from now as long a wordpress is still up, people will still be able to see them.
This altar is not from the first place I lived as an adult, but from the second. The first place I lived was a one-room apartment on the bad side of town, and I only lasted about three months there. This setup is from the second place I lived.
This is the main altar I had in that house. As you can see it has a Grecian feel, but is not dedicated to any particular Deity. The athame and wand is hanging on the wall behind it, but you can see the tools of Hellenic ritual on the altar. You can see see the offering plate, the khernips bowl, the bowl of barley. The idea behind Greek statue with the mask is that it is to represent my Agathos Daimon or juno.
This is the altar to Aphrodite and Eros that was in my bedroom in the house in Niles. The plush rose was a gift that was given to me by my SO at the time on our 3rd date. The statues themselves were a lucky find at Goodwill, I got them for $4 a piece! Sadly I no longer have them anymore, these are a few of the things that I need photographic evidence of.
This is the lower part of the shrine, which sits under the shelf. The heart shaped box in filled with candles that look like chocolates, in case you can’t see what that is. Behind it, on the paper, is a handwritten poem that was part of a devotional activity.
An altar to the Muses. You can’t read the title of the little book because of the quality of the picture, but it says “Spells for Creativity”. Unfortunately that beautiful statute broke during one of my many moves later on. I packed it with lots of bubble-wrap, but I guess it wasn’t enough. Sigh. The picture tacked to wall behind the altar is actually an aquarium background.
An altar to Wisdom, in it’s many guises. Athena, my Goddess, foremost. But also a picture of a sphinx, Hermes with the baby Dionysos, and a drawing of a Buddhist monk. The snakeskin came from my kingsnake, Medusa. The scene on the side of the little Greek vase is of Maenads and satyrs.
My next house was much bigger, and I shared it with several roommates. It had a large foyer, and my roommates allowed me to set up my altars there, since my bedroom was pretty small. This is the altar set-up that was in the foyer. On the bottom level, far left is an altar to Triton and Sea-Gods, and the bottom level to right is altar to Muses. The mask above everything, which in my last house I used on a statue for my Agathos Daimon, is here rededicated to Nyx, Mother of Night, Who bore Earth Herself and therefore everything else came from Her. On the far left is a metal plaque of the Greenman. Below will be closer pictures of some of the individual altars so you can see some of the details.
Top level, Middle: Dionysos. The framed picture of Dionysos is one I drew myself (shameless plug: you can get that design on a t-shirt here . The tarot card is the Fool from the Mythic Tarot. The shell contains first fruit offerings. The grapes are plastic but the dried corn is real.
Bottom Level, Middle: Artemis. Two statues of Her, the larger bust was one I hand-painted.
Close-up of the hand-painted one:
Top Level, Far Left: Khthonic (Underworld) Deities, represented by Their cards in the Mythic Tarot: Hadies (the Death card), Persephone (the High Priestess), and Hekate (the Moon). A snakeskin hangs from the steps, and a small skeleton in a Mexican Day of the Dead style that was a gift was a friend.
Below the Khthonic Deity altar, the altar to the Nymphs and Nature-spirits, featuring my own artwork, a large chunk of quartz I found on a beach in California, and a cool little wooden box with art made of feathers that I found at a thrift store.
Top Row, Far Right: Aphrodite and Eros. The Tarot card in the middle is the Ten of Cups from the Mythic Tarot, depicting the marriage of Eros and Psykhe. The white statue I use to symbolize Eirene, Goddess of Peace.
An altar to Athena, Apollo, and Artemis that used to be in my office, where I did most of my writing in the time
Above that altar: This was a collage of Greek Gods that I made on a wooden base. This one of my first forays into collage art, which is now one of my favorite devotional activities.
This was when I had the altars in my bedroom instead of the foyer. The statue next to the snowflake is to symbolize Demeter in mourning, and was only used in winter, when the wooden Persephone statue was moved to the Underworld altar. I eventually changed my Zeus and Hera statues to ones that I felt matched better, and when I did I passed these two onto one of my best students who took my Olympos in Egypt class. I’m glad they went to another polytheist, especially because that’s where I got them from – another polytheist who didn’t need them anymore. Having statues that were already used as sacred objects was awesome, they came “pre-charged”, as it were, and it helped to build a sense of community with people I had only known online as well.
Athena Nike, with fresh offerings of flowers, on the top shelf of my desk:
After that I established the Temple of Athena the Savior in my living room. I’m not going to type out the detailed descriptions of everything in the Temple when I already did it, so I’m included a link here in to page Pictures of the Temple .
Below are pictures of the coffee table that served as a temporarily that was set up for festivals.
Birthday of Sobek
Adoration of Athena. The incredible painting was done by Samatha Lykeia Sanders.
Festival of the Reconciliation of Hephaistos and Hera. Hephaistos’s side is covered until halfway through the ritual, since He has fled Olympos. Dionysos is in the middle as the One Who brought Them back together again.
Hephaistos’s side, a framed collage I made, after being uncovered.
An altar for the spring festival of Antersterisa.
Festival of the Savior-Gods of the Pharos.
Far left of the altar: Herakles, Alexander, Isis
Far right of the Pharos altar: Athena Nike, Zeus, the Dioskouri
An altar for the Gamelia or Theogamia, the celebration of the marriage of Zeus and Hera.
This cheap drawer set I painted to turn into an altar. Each corner of the pentacle on the drawer is a different color, one for each element. I was going to add more flowers on the left side, but I never got to more than the pink tulip-looking one.
The altar is to Athena, Apollo, Buddha, Neith, and Anubis
The small altar I had while I went to school in Tucson, Arizona. It was set-up in the top two shelves of my bookshelves. I was hoping to get into nursing school at the time so I was paying a lot of cultus to Asklepios and considered Him to be my professional patron.
The collage has pictures of Athena, Artemis, Apollo, and Isis. The beautiful statue of Athena I bought from fellow Pagan Dorothy Wood (RIP). That statue is one of the few that I wish I been able to hold onto over the years. Its one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, its simply gorgeous.
The last altar I whipped up in house I lived in Indiana. Artemis was the center of the altar. This was the altar I put together after two years of not practicing. I was having a “dark night of soul”, spiritual crisis. I wanted to believe, but I had seen so much shit that it gets hard to some sometimes. But I put this altar together and I prayed to Artemis, I poured my heart out to Her. My brother and I had been trying to find land, but it was difficult with our terrible credit. This was after all the crap with my family had gone down and we had to cut ties completely with our father; it was just me and my brother, and that doesn’t make it easy. I told Artemis that if She helped me to find land that my brother and I could homestead, we would name it after Her. Less than a moon’s turn later, we stumbled onto this place, and it all worked out. She answered by prayer, and quicker than I could have imagined. So we named this place Artemis Acres, fulfilling my promise to Her. She has an even more special place in my heart now.
I don’t know if you can tell in this slightly blurry picture, but there’s a Vulcan IDIC symbol, from Star Trek, hanging on the wall. IDIC stands for Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, which I always loved.
Center of the altar: Artemis, deer antlers behind Her. A Parthenon, a Loki figurine (it’s a Marvel figure, but I’m going to paint the hair red to make it more historically correct), a glass owl, seashell, and Klingon bat’leth. I’m a huge nerd and the symbolism of Star Trek speaks to me, what can I say?
My matching Zeus and Hera statues from Sacred Source. The little owl by Hera’s feet, and the large pottery to Her right, is Navajo horsehair pottery that I bought at the Four Corners (the corner where 4 states meets – Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah). Anubis, a herm made by a fellow Pagan and member of Neos Alexandria. A figure of a woman with a sword , a Warrior Woman. The teapot belonged to my great-grandmother. A flat stone with an owl carved on it, a rose quartz, a labradorite
Far Left of the altar: sand dollar, Loki cup, Thor figurine, wooden turtle, amethyst pillar, tiger’s eye heart, a flat stone with a 12-point star laser-carved into it.
So, that’s not all of my altars, but is most of them, not counting specific festival shrines.And so that brings us to today. A few months ago set up my altar in the cabin. My room is in the second level, the loft. This didn’t really start to feel like home until I had an altar. I’m a truly a Pagan, and I’m not happy when I can’t practice. Having a shrine changes my entire attitude about a place. But I don’t have any pictures of it yet, so I guess I’ll just end this post here, and at some future point I’ll post pictures of the altar I have now.
That’s it, my friends. I hope this has been inspiring. Keep worshiping the Gods!